BRIDGEWATER — As she stood hunched over the ball 5:33 into overtime, Rachel Yaney thought back to all of the times she practiced taking penalty strokes and knew exactly where she’d be putting the ball.
With the flick of the wrist, Yaney fired the ball into the top left corner of the goal, giving the Bridgewater-Raritan High School field hockey team a 2-1 victory over Montgomery and the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV title.
The Panthers will play the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Randolph and Montclair Friday at Basilone Field. The game is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m.
“I practice shooting to the same spot of the goal and I was just prepared to do it again,” Yaney said. “I just said to myself ‘this is not over, and I’m not ending my season on this day,’ so I had to make it in.”
The Panthers also defeated Montgomery in the Somerset County Tournament on Oct. 20.
Yaney got her chance in the extra period when she was hauled down on a breakaway by a Montgomery defender. The officials got together and ruled that the play warranted a penalty stroke, setting up the drama with 4:27 remaining.
“I was surprised at the call, but I was confident in Rachel taking the stroke,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis said. “She is one of our top strokers, so I had no problem with her taking the stroke. I knew that if there was a possibility of her putting it in, she would do it. I was a little worried that she might have been a little banged up from getting clotheslined, but she put it in and held tight and stayed composed.”
It looked like Bridgewater-Raritan was going to pitch their second consecutive shutout, but Montgomery’s Erica Hrudowsky found the back of the net with just 8:16 remaining, tying the score at 1-1. The Cougars dominated the possession battle for a good portion of the second half, giving themselves a chance to earn the equalizer. For the game, Bridgewater-Raritan earned 15 corners to Montgomery’s 5, but the Cougars had some of the better scoring opportunities throughout the contest.
“Montgomery really stepped it up, they gave us a really hard game and a great competition and they played their hearts out and scared us,” Yaney said.
The Panthers scored the game’s first goal with just 87 seconds left before intermission. Victoria Umbach smacked home a loose ball in front of the Montgomery net, beating Cougars goalie Kiran Sunduram, who played an excellent game in goal.
The hosts played without their top scorer, Catherine Caro, who suffered an injury in their semifinal win over Hunterdon Central. DeBonis pointed out that playing without Caro affected her team’s style of play and ability to get solid scoring chances.
“Catherine didn’t play today, so one of our premiere players was out of the game and we just didn’t stay true to our game,” DeBonis said. “I think we played a little scared, not ever being in the position to have to play without her, so that definitely had a bit of an impact on us today.”